Thoughts on a situation

At The Leader we’re always looking for the middle ground. The more delicate and potentially inflammatory the matter is, the more it seems to us the middle ground is the only sensible place to be. Stirring up unpleasant subjects can make things worse.

But maybe that isn’t good enough. It’s not nearly enough, when the question is the mistreatment of children.

The trend, in any case, is very much away from the middle in recent times, into utter condemnation of those schools, the policies that created and maintained them, and the attitudes that led to the policies being set up in the first place.

There is certainly no shortage of things to condemn and regret. All the way back to European expansionism; or even further back, if you like, to whatever makes human beings and societies into what they are. There is a lot that is great and beautiful; and a lot that is unfortunate and regrettable.

There also must have been good things that happened in the residential schools. That probably goes without saying, and it isn’t being said. Perhaps that’s understandable, and maybe just as well, because focusing on the positive side of things can be a way of avoiding the bigger, darker questions. For example: what did the powers that be think they were doing? And why did they think that way? And what right did they have in the first place?

What right does anybody have, for that matter, to consider themselves superior to anybody else?

We like to think we’re past all that now, in our new, enlightened age. We are not past it, but we are trying.

In the meantime, the old adage, ‘If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem’ has never held much water from our point of view. It implies if you’re not out on the streets waving placards and making noise, you are an active participant in making things worse. That is obviously nonsense. There is certainly a case for decent people (the majority, we hope), simply going about their business and treating their fellow human beings as decently as they know how, most of the time.

But if there’s ever a time to stand up and say something, it’s when you find children are – or have been – mistreated. That goes for now and it goes for then, when whatever arrogant, stupid, insensitive policy led to Native children dying while attending schools they were forced to attend, and then being chucked in unmarked graves. Unmarked, unappreciated, un-respected, un-everythinged. It just reeks of wrongness for every reason one can think of.

So good for whoever brought this to light. And for all the good people who are speaking up about it. If there’s more of it to be accounted for, let’s do that. Let’s stop pretending that this stuff didn’t happen, or that whatever happened was okay. We have to get to some point where we can move forward properly, hopefully and successfully. There’s a lot of healing to be done, and it’s not going to happen if half the country (or more) remains in denial.

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